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Content by Anne Stewart

Don’t Give Up

musicishardtomakeOh, untold hoards of loving readers, I guess this is sort of like goodbye. After five years of life in the sticky, smoky trenches of music journalism, I’m hanging up my hat and paddling my canoe in the direction of uncharted waters. Enough banal metaphor usage for you? Ya, for me, too.

I know that I don’t have to worry about you once I’m gone, loving readers. The webosphere is so full of smart, eloquent folks writing about music that I know you won’t suffer from any shortage of information or half-baked ranting. I am, on the other hand, a bit concerned about what’s going to happen to the music industry once my back is turned.

State of the Tune-ion

Things are looking a bit shaky these days. While I’ve enjoyed guiding you through the collapse of the major label-dominated music industry, the glittering digital phoenix that has risen from its ashes isn’t exactly everything it’s promised to be.

While professional-grade recording equipment has become accessible to all, it’s also created a production scene ripe for manipulation by middlemen who promise much to aspiring artists, but deliver little.

NASA Gives Musicians The Chance To Rock Outer Space

astronaut“Ground control to Major Tom / Ground control to Major Tom: / Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…”

Bet you didn’t know, all the times you were singing along to “Space Oddity” in the shower, that ground control actually does sing to its astronauts. And now you can, too! It’s true, in a bizarre twist of inter-galactic vibrations, NASA is offering musicians the chance to make music for astronauts. Here’s the deal:

There’s a tradition at NASA – called the Wakeup Song – of playing music to start the astronauts’ day on space missions. It’s been going on ever since the Apollo program in the sixties, when the folks at mission control sang songs to the astronauts returning from the moon landing.

Now that the final missions of the space shuttle program are coming up (one in November and one in February), NASA’s giving indie artists the chance to submit original songs to be played to wake up the astronauts on their last space adventures.

Contest Details

The Seductive, Perilous Life Of The Semi-Indie Band

producerI went to an interesting show last night. It involved five bands, all in the process of recording their first album at the same studio. The owner of the studio, who is, I guess you could say, “co-producing” the album along with the artists, suggested that they put on the showcase in order to do some live sound and video recording. If they were able to create some successful media, it could be incorporated into their album and/or EPK in various ways.

While the producer suggested a venue, along with video and sound people for the project, it was the bands’ job to book the venue, promote the show, sell the tickets, and pay the tech people. If they managed to record quality sound and video, the producer would then know just what to do with it.

The night was a big success, but of course the bands didn’t actually make any money. After the venue, technicians, and set players for solo artists were paid off, the only reward was some hopefully usable recordings. The bands had been walked through part of the process of production, however, and they were all delighted at having participated in such a professional event.

Has The Age Of The Smartphone Music Video Arrived?

smartphoneIf you’re a musician or you’re in a band, it’s pretty important to be able to make videos. Music videos, and also just videos of you being your charming, disgusting, vulgar, shocking, insightful, intelligent, funny, possibly naked, drunk, and disorderly selves. Luckily, much like putting together an album, these days making a video isn’t exactly rocket science, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

The newest crop of smart phones on the market are turning into real, serious business video recorders. These devices are ideal for carrying around and recording shows, impromptu jams, and all those bonkers moments that will become great music video material. What makes these phones better than their ancestors are features like HD video recording and on-the-go editing software. But wait! Don’t go running out to buy an iPhone 4 just yet. There are other phones on the market with similar technology. Let’s take a look at them:

The iPhone 4 vs. The N8 vs. The HTC EVO


While Steve Jobs assures us that the iPhone’s 5 megapixel camera is plenty enough pixels for any camera, Google’s newest HTC phone rocks 8 megapixels, while the Nokia N8 comes in for the win with a cool 12. The media might be hyping the iPhone 4, but the N8 is what the people love!

Independent Music Industry Organizations

pipeorganBecause you can’t have music without bureaucracy!

The dramatic shifts that have taken place in the music industry over the last decade have shaken up and set to crumbling some of the old institutions that built and shaped music as we know it. The big labels are going down. The big records stores are all but gone. Healthier, happier, and more numerous than ever before, on the other hand, are the music industry organizations, particularly those catering to the independent artists labels.

Organizations like the RIAA and the NMPA are nothing new. They’ve been protecting the rights of – well, not artists, per se – but certainly music publishers and distributors in the U.S. for the better part of a century. And in countries with smaller music industries, like Canada and Australia, national organizations have long worked to promote and protect artists on the world stage.

Of course, if you’re a musician from one of the less chart-topping countries, you know just how useful these organizations are.

The Indie Org

Curren$y, Damon Dash, and Hip Hop’s Warm Indie Heart

How would you like to release an album on a label with absolutely no deal in writing? Does it sound risky? Or is the real risk in this climate making a deal, and signing on the dotted line?

currensy1Take, for example, the case of Curren$y. Don’t let the dollar sign in his name fool you. This New Orleans-born emcee is hot, and he’s not the clueless commercial rapper his name implies. In fact, he’s probably learned more about the rap game over the last decade than more folks learn in their lives, and for the release of his first album, the already highly acclaimed Pilot Talk, it was no-deals no-contracts all the way.

Pilot Talk was released on July 15th through the newly-resurrected Roc-A-Fella Records label. Sort of.

Setting The Stage For Indie Hip Hop Heroes

You remember what happened with Roc-A-Fella, right? The label was started by Jay-Z and friends Damon Dash and Biggs Burke because they couldn’t find a major label willing to get behind Jay-Z (hero moment #1). Then, once they hit it big, Roc-A-Fella got bought by Def Jam (boo!), which made Jay-Z its CEO and president (boo!), and saw Dash and Burke quickly go their own way after they realized they had nothing like control of their label anymore (hero moment #2).

Good Jamming Etiquette Can Open Doors

guitarjamI’ve been hitting a lot of folk music festivals this summer, most of which involve a weekend of shows and usually camping near the festival grounds. But, of course, a great outdoor festival is more than that. It’s sunburnt faces and children dancing in fairy costumes, muddy feet and intimate workshops with artists, pine needle naps and mosquitoes, BBQ and cold beer and bonfire smoke, live music until one or three in the morning, and then back to the campground to jam until dawn.

For musicians, these late-night, boozy jams can be all-important. Because more than during stage performances, more than in backstage kitchen tents, this is where mettle is tested and relationships are forged. For a young artist trying to break into a local (or even national) music scene, jamming is a chance to show her quality, and get to know some of the musicians and producers and general folks-about-town that she needs to know to advance her career. Impress, make friends, and she’ll find herself becoming a part of the music scene.

If she knows her jam etiquette, that is.

Mogwai’s On Ustream, And You Should Be, Too

watchersDid any of you follow the whole Old Spice Man nuttiness that went down a few weeks ago? Old Spice used the online popularity of their recent commercials to stage a social media blitz. They invited users from all the major social networks on the web to ask questions to the Old Spice Man, and he answered them via YouTube videos.

The unique thing about the Old Spice Man videos was the speed with which they were released. Someone asked a question on Twitter, and minutes later, a hilarious video response was up on YouTube. Social media experts say this campaign was so successful because there is an ever-growing demand for live and real-time video online.

What Does This Have To Do With Music?

We’ve finally hit that point where our computers and internet connections are fast enough for live streaming video to actually be successful. And people love it. The reality and the intimacy of this type of connection – not just with friends, but with brands and celebrities and political figures – is slated to be the next big thing. Which is why it’s time for musicians to get on board.